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The good old days of bottled soda

The Jacksons from the June 1, 2017 issue of the Manitoba Co-operator

Rose Jackson pulled the brim of her hat down to shield her eyes from the bright morning sun. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the bright-orange flash of an oriole flitting from tree to tree in the neighbour’s yard as she walked by. Something glinted on the sidewalk by her feet and she stopped to bend over and pick it up. A shiny new quarter.

The moment took her back to the childhood memory of a day much like this, when, as a little girl she had gone to town with her father. Walking along the sidewalk in front of the old hardware store that day, she had found a dime hiding in a crack in the concrete.

“Can I keep it?” she had asked her father.

“I guess so,” her father had replied. “Not much else we can do with it. Just don’t spend it all in one place.”

Rose smiled at the thought. There was a time when one could have a dime and actually not spend it all in one place. A penny would have got her a single bubble gum at the grocery store, four pennies would have bought a toy whistle at the hardware store and she would still have had a nickel left to spend on candy at the pharmacy.

But she remembered that she hadn’t taken her father’s advice. She had followed him into the store and while he searched for the particular tool he was looking for that day, probably a vice grip, (he seemed always to be needing another vice grip) she had wandered over to the cooler in the corner, and taken out a bottle of Orange Crush. She could still feel the shape of the bottle and the coldness of the glass in her hand as she had reached up to place it on the counter by the cash register. The boy behind the counter had taken her dime and, reaching under the counter for a bottle opener, had popped the cap off of the bottle for her. She had never had a carbonated drink before and the sweet orange flavour of it, combined with the delicious fizz of the carbonation had been a revelation.

Back in the present, a few minutes later, Rose had covered the few blocks that took her to the door of the café on Main Street. A lone car idled past, old Albert Johnson’s Cadillac. Rose waved but Albert didn’t wave back. Rose stepped into the café and immediately spotted her friend Karen at the table by the window. She headed over and sat down.

“I can’t believe Albert Johnson still has a driver’s licence,” said Karen, who had apparently been looking out the window.

“I know,” said Rose. “I just waved at him and he didn’t wave back. I’m pretty sure he couldn’t actually see me.”

“He told Grant last week that when he pulls off of his driveway onto the road he has to open his window and listen to make sure there’s no traffic,” said Karen. “It’s crazy.”

“Oh well,” said Rose. “He never goes anywhere except to the Co-op, and everybody knows his car so they can take appropriate precautions. Nothing anyone can do but hope for the best, right?”

“I guess,” said Karen. She turned her gaze away from the window. “What’s new?” she asked.

“Not a thing,” said Rose. “Everything is old. Which is just the way I like it. Maybe I’m old myself. I was daydreaming about the good old days on my walk over here. That seems like an old person activity, doesn’t it?”

“Depends,” said Karen. “Sometimes the good old days can be like, last Friday.”

“I was thinking more 1963-ish,” said Rose. “Back when things at the Five and Ten Cent Store actually cost five and 10 cents.”

“Yeah that’s going back,” said Karen. “That’s a few years before my time. But you’re not old, my dear. You are in what’s known as your prime.”

“I may be a year or two past that,” said Rose, “but I appreciate the thought. I certainly don’t feel old. I don’t know what would make me feel old on a summer morning as beautiful as this one.”

Karen glanced out the window.

“Maybe rolling down the window of your car to listen for traffic you can no longer see,” she said.

Rose laughed. “Thank goodness I can still see,” she said, “as long as I have my glasses.”

“Can I get you something to drink?” The waitress had appeared at last. “Coffee.”

Rose smiled. “No coffee today. I think I’ll have an Orange Crush,” she said. “In the bottle.”

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